Dalbergia parviflora (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Dalbergia parviflora Roxb.

Family: Leguminosae


  • Dalbergia cumingiana Benth.,
  • D. zollingeriana Miquel.

Vernacular names

  • Akar laka (En)
  • Indonesia: kayu laka (Indonesian), bulangan (Palembang), takanas bini (Dayak)
  • Malaysia: kayu laka, akar berangan
  • Philippines: tahid-labuyo (Tagalog), karbilan (Bikol), balauini (Ibanag)
  • Thailand: khree, saree (peninsular).


From Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand through Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra to the Moluccas and possibly the Philippines.


The pulverized heartwood is used as a component of incense or joss sticks, especially in China, India and Malaysia. It has no odour until burnt, when it produces a pleasant smell. Only small amounts are used for joss sticks, because its strong odour easily dominates other components. A red, sticky oil which is applied to ulcerated wounds can be distilled from the wood, and a decoction of the wood in water is used as a tonic. Grated wood is rubbed on the skin to invigorate the body.


  • Thorny liana, up to 30 m long, with a rough, peeling bark, bright to dark red heartwood and whitish sapwood.
  • Leaves alternate, 15-20 cm long, compound; leaflets 5-9, alternate, ovate-lanceolate, 5-9 cm × 2-4 cm, glabrous.
  • Inflorescence an axillary panicle, 7.5-10 cm long, with numerous white flowers, calyx campanulate with 5 teeth, stamens 10.
  • Fruit a flattened-obovoid pod, 2-5 cm × 1.5 cm, indehiscent.
  • Seeds 1-2, reniform.

D. parviflora occurs in secondary forest on river banks, along the seashore, in fresh-water swamp forest and in Dipterocarpus forest, mostly on fertile alluvial soils up to 150 m altitude. Only the oldest parts of mature stems are collected from the wild; the sapwood is removed, the heartwood is cut into billets which are traded. The main components of the heartwood essential oil are nerolidol, farnesol, furfurol, arylbenzofurans and neoflavonoids. It is doubtful whether D. parviflora is the true or the only source of "kayu laka"; its natural scarcity is difficult to reconcile with the large amounts of incense used. It is recommended to clarify all the sources of "kayu laka" and to investigate the prospects of cultivating it to prevent the species being eradicated from the wild.

Selected sources

  • Groom, N., 1997. The new perfume handbook. 2nd edition. Blackie Academic & Professional, London, United Kingdom. 435 pp.
  • Muangnoicharoen, M. & Frahm, A.W., 1981. Arylbenzofurans from Dalbergia parviflora. Phytochemistry 20: 291-293.
  • Muangnoicharoen, M. & Frahm, A.W., 1982. Neoflavonoids of Dalbergia parviflora. Phytochemistry 21: 767-772.
  • Ridley, H.N., 1922-1925. The flora of the Malay Peninsula. 5 volumes. Government of the Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States. L. Reeve & Co., London, United Kingdom.
  • Spoon, W., 1931. Enkele waarnemingen over het Indische reukhout "kayu laka" [Some observations concerning the Indonesian scented wood "kayu laka"]. Berichten van de afdeeling Handelsmuseum van de Koninklijke Vereeniging Koloniaal Instituut No 60. Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 11 pp.
  • Sunarno, B. & Ohashi, H., 1997. Dalbergia (Leguminosae) of Borneo. Journal of Japanese Botany 72: 198-220.
  • Zhu Liangfeng, Li Yonghua, Li Baoling, Lu Biyao & Xia Nianhe, 1993. Aromatic plants and essential constituents. Hai Feng Publishing Company, Hong Kong. p. 262.


P.C.M. Jansen